Scott Dixon and Honda Indy Toronto restore roar by the shore

When Scott Dixon took the checkered flag in Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto, he put an exclamation point on a successful event that roared back to life after two years of cancellations related to the pandemic.

“I think it shows the love of our sport in Canada,” said Dixon, who won in Toronto for the fourth time and tied legend Mario Andretti for second place on IndyCar’s career wins list with 52.

That love was evident from the start of the three-day slate at Exhibition Place. The stands were roughly three-quarters full for practice on Friday, when admission was free for local fans.

Dixon was part of a 25-car field, the largest since 2016. And while attendance figures were not released, grandstand tickets for Sunday’s race were sold out according to IndyCar broadcaster NBC and the weekend total was estimated at 50,000. In its heyday in the early 2000s, three-day attendance topped 70,000.

The weather co-operated — sunny and hot for the duration — and hundreds of fans sported team colours. Vendors had a field day, with Pizza Pizza telling customers at one location that they were running out of dough.

The 41-year-old Dixon, a six-time IndyCar series champion, said he was pleased to see the response, which follows an increase in viewership. According to NBC, the audience for the first three televised IndyCar races this season was up 34 per cent from last year.

“I think from Friday on, it looked like they needed more grandstands,” Dixon said.

“It shows we should be running more races here in Canada. I miss the days of running here, be it races in Edmonton (an IndyCar stop until 2009) or Vancouver.”

Racing on the bumpy 11-turn road course with its concrete-asphalt transitions has become something of a badge of honour for drivers. At turn seven, the NBC crew noted “at least eight different surface changes” as well as a few manhole covers that had been welded shut for the race. There was also discussion about the quality of the surface after “two hard Canadian winters” since the event was last run in 2019.

“It’s a circuit you can really attack on,” Dixon said. “Some tracks you’re, like, on attack and you can go only eight out of 10. But here, it’s 12 out of 10. It’s like a bit of a bull ring. You can’t let up.”

The return of the Honda Indy Toronto drew a crowd for Sunday’s main event at Exhibition Place, won by IndyCar legend Scott Dixon.

With so little room for error, race crews pay extra attention to fuel and tire management, car balance and suspension for a chance at winning.

Dixon was pressured for more than 25 laps by second-place finisher Colton Herta, the fastest qualifier on Saturday. With other challengers ducking in and out of pit stops, Dixon had to deal with cars in front of him as well as Herta behind.

On lap 62 of 85, the front-running car of Rinus VeeKay pitted, leaving Dixon and Herta to stage a dogfight the rest of the way.

“I think he’s a role model for all of us,” third-place finisher Felix Rosenqvist said of Dixon, who hails from New Zealand and won in Toronto for the fourth time — second only to Michael Andretti, a seven-time winner by the lakeshore. “He shows it doesn’t matter how old you are, or what kind of season you are having. If you want it badly enough, you can win.”

For Dixon, it marked his first victory since May 1, 2021 — a span of 23 races, unusual for a legend who’d had at least one IndyCar win in each of the previous 17 seasons.

“It’s been a bit of a blah year,” Dixon said. “We’re in the business of winning, and it’s a results-driven business … I made a big mistake (at the Indy 500).

“You hit a kind of bottom-out period, and I’ve had these low points in my career. You gain another level of respect for the sport that way.”


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